£30 million of Chelsea’s summer transfer expenditure went in the Anzhi Makhachkala “fire sale” to bring Willian to London. The Brazilian was then joined a few days later by his teammate Samuel Eto’o on a free transfer. Both players were brought in as last-minute reinforcements to a squad that already boasted some exceptional attacking talent, and there have been plenty of commentators questioning the reasoning behind the deals.
20-year-old Romelu Lukaku will spend another season out on loan, this time at Everton, to make way for Eto’o, while Willian will face fierce competition for his place in the starting XI from the Three Amigos, Kevin De Bruyne and fellow new signing Andre Schurrle.
The question is, which of the two former Anzhi players will have the biggest impact?
Let’s look at the short-term first. Jose Mourinho has already thrown something of a wet blanket on any aspirations that Willian may have had to fit straight into the starting XI. The Special One told Chelsea TV, reported by Simon Johnson in the Evening Standard, that “Willian is a creative player and for his qualities, I think he needs a bit of time to express himself” before going on to say that the midfielder spent “too many years in Ukraine and in Russia and now he has his first chance to be in a big championship.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho had this to say about Eto’o in the same interview.
Samuel is a very experienced striker as everybody knows and a winner. He is a guy who in spite of winning everything, he never lost his desire to win. Samuel comes to England with the same objective with which I went to Spain - he wants to be the first one to win the Spanish, the Italian and the English league as a player. He always wanted to play in the Premier League so he comes with big motivation.
Such high praise suggests that Eto’o will be Mourinho’s first-choice frontman for this season. The two have worked together previously, winning the treble at Inter Milan, and they will be looking to recreate that success at Chelsea this year.
The Cameroonian veteran has scored 266 goals in 449 career starts (per ESPN stats) which averages out to a goal every 1.6 games. This prolific scoring ratio has been consistent throughout his career and should continue this season, easing the burden on the attacking midfield trio.
Chelsea have lacked a striker with a world-class finish since Didier Drogba departed the club in summer 2012, and Eto’o is the perfect player to fill that void.
However, the relief he provides could turn out to be temporary.
Chelsea’s policy of only offering one-year contracts to players over the age of 30 has been well documented in recent years, and the 32-year-old might find that this is his only season to achieve his ambition. He has taken a substantial pay cut to join the Blues, but as the focus at Stamford Bridge switches from superstar signings to youth development, Eto’o knows that he has to seize the opportunities afforded to him this season to avoid ending his career disappointed.
On the other hand, Willian represents a long-term option for the Blues.
While he may struggle to make an immediate impact, his performances for Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League especially showed his potential. In 105 career starts he has scored 29 goals and assisted a further 12. These numbers are by no means extraordinary, but the 25-year-old’s pace and dribbling ability, coupled with his ambition to be selected for the 2014 World Cup squad, should drive him to up his game.
His fellow Brazilians should help him to settle in, and if he can earn a place in the first-team ahead of the world-class talent the Blues already have, expect his future at Chelsea to be long and successful.
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